When women's workwear brand Argent launched in June, its premise was simple: "Dressing for work doesn’t have to be a mindf*ck." Unlike many brands on the market, Argent has a sassy, irreverent sensibility and is calibrated to speak to strong women who want outfits that will allow them to be taken seriously in the workplace. As such, it promised to make functional clothes for the professional woman, such as blazers with mesh cell phone pockets to peek at messages without actually taking out the device.
Argent started selling online first, but as it gets ready to make a bigger splash in the marketplace, founders Sali Christeson and Eleanor Turner wanted to think outside the traditional retail box. Rather than turning to department stores or boutique retailers, they decided to go somewhere unexpected: the coworking startup WeWork.
Selling their product at WeWork locations instinctively made sense to Christeson and Turner. It would allow them to reach women within the WeWork network who were freelancers, entrepreneurs, and startup employees, all of whom needed workwear in their closets and would likely get Argent's sensibility. Given that WeWork's coworking spaces foster relationships, it would be a good way to organically get the word out about Argent to the wider community.
Perhaps most importantly, WeWork had brand values that resonated with the founders and the brand they were cultivating at Argent. "It's about building community, encouraging doing work that you love, being a bit disruptive, and elevating female founders," Christeson says. "There's so much overlap from a brand perspective. It was almost too good to be true."
For eight months, Christeson and Turner discussed a strategy with WeWork about using a coworking location in San Francisco as a base for their operations, but also as a place to organize events and sell products. "We were really talking about the future of retail," Christeson says. "To us, it makes a ton of sense for our go-to-market strategy to leverage their footprint."
While the plan is experimental and open to constant tweaking, for the moment Argent will use the San Francisco WeWork as a retail venue, where customers can come to see or try on products. The brand will also use communal space to host networking parties and career coaching events that would target the WeWork community, but also the wider public. Christeson and Turner are committed to using the brand as a way to empower women in the workplace, but these gatherings are also a great way to introduce customers to products.
Besides being a smart marketing strategy, collaborating with WeWork also made good business sense. The founders felt that having a physical space for customers to see the garments and experience the brand's values was very important, but leasing a retail store, then investing money in building it up, is expensive. "There's so much risk inherent in brick and mortar retail, and we feel so strongly about having a physical presence," Christeson says. "We feel really strongly about building a community around our product and giving our customers a chance to connect with one another."
Many brands are in a similar quandary, which is why the pop-up model has been so popular. That's starting to shift as some realize a better strategy to showcase their wares may be not be in a strictly retail setting. Bed linen brand Parachute is opening a hotel, for example. The idea is to use the space for a variety of activities while giving potential customers the opportunity to see the goods used in a natural environment.
With WeWork, Argent is hoping to have a more long-term strategy, where it will pay a fixed month-to-month fee and have the option of moving to different locations around the country, perhaps even the world. (Christeson says WeWork was very flexible about negotiating a contract that best suited Argent's needs.) "Because we're new, we're able to be flexible and nimble, and we have a little bit of fluidity around which markets we go into," Christeson says. "But in an ideal world, we'll be in WeWork for the long haul."
The brand has just moved into a "showroom-office" in San Francisco that will serve as their hub. But they have also created little pop-ups at other Bay Area locations, like a recent one they did in San Franicso's SoMa neighborhood. These pop-ups will be at street-level WeWork locations or WeWork lobbies, to attract foot traffic.
This is just the start. Argent's founders are constantly brainstorming to find creative ways to make the most of their WeWork partnership. "There has to be a creative solution between brick-and-mortar and online only," says Christeson. "We're trying to figure out what that is."
Slideshow Credits: 01 / Photos: courtesy of Argent;